NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 14, 2008

For decades, a fairly consistent share of workers -- about 60 percent of women and about 52 percent of men -- have claimed a Social Security check at 62, the earliest age at which most people qualify for benefits.  However, collecting Social Security before "full retirement age," which is climbing gradually to age 67, results in a permanent reduction in a person's monthly payout, says the Wall Street Journal.

In a study published in June by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, researchers found:

  • Some 48 percent of women and 43 percent of men who turned 62 in 2006 claimed Social Security benefits as soon as they became available.
  • That's down from 60 percent of women and 51 percent of men who turned 62 in 2000.

This decline is consistent with data that show labor-force participation rates among older adults increasing, say researchers.  About 23 percent of people age 65 to 74 were in the labor force in 2006, up from 19.6 percent in 2000, according to the Census Bureau.

Financial advisers increasingly are urging people to push back their "start date" for Social Security, says the Journal.  Delaying Social Security is a way of increasing your overall income in retirement and standard of living.

A number of factors argue for postponing, and trying to maximize, that first check -- including the demise of traditional pensions, increased life expectancy, retirement accounts that fall victim to bear markets, and Social Security's own rules (which tend to favor survivors whose spouses claim benefits at a later date). 

Source: Glenn Ruffenach, "The Benefits of Holding Off On Social Security," Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2008.

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